When I wrote a post about work that works recently, it was in part wishful thinking. Work has been particularly difficult after having children and during pregnancy. Not long after writing that post, the work in question certainly did not work at all, and on reflection, it never really did.
Work not working has been a combination of being made redundant on maternity leave, finding only contract positions that wouldn’t support me in any future maternity leave, and trying out pro-female workplaces only to be let go of weeks before maternity leave again.
It can be tough saying all this, because these things are usually left unsaid lest they cause harm to your future prospects, lest you kind of feel like it was your fault, or because you feel like you’re on your own.
When 54,000 women lose their jobs each year due to maternity discrimination, and women are more likely to face discrimination when returning to work than they were ten years ago according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, we are sadly not alone.
Work has worked for me, and it hasn’t. I thought it worked for me during my first pregnancy, but then I was made redundant and my maternity cover took my re-named job (and then I wrote this BBC psych drama The Replacement. Jokes.)
It really did work for me when I wrapped up my first maternity leave and returned to a publication I had worked on previously, with people I knew and respected. But sadly that was a short term freelance position so couldn’t last forever.
Now I find myself on my second (AND LAST!) maternity leave so in between the two I experienced fantastic support at Net-a-porter to work four days to still see my baby one day a week, the flexibility to start my work day early to get home for nursery pick up. But I also experienced approaches from a recruitment consultant representing a well-known fragrance brand who immediately discriminated against me because I was pregnant, despite that being illegal, and being slowly squeezed out of a business with a series of small and separately not illegal acts.
So in short it has been a real mixed bag working for other businesses. Freelance and self-employment then are surely the answer.
Yet today the chancellor has made it very difficult to see these two options as a solution.
Philip Hammond’s first and last spring budget breaks a Tory election promise** and makes it harder to choose any path that isn’t working for a big business. He has squeezed the small person by raising national insurance contributions for the self-employed from 9% to 11%, has reduced the amount you can take tax-free as dividends from £5000 to £2000 and raised business rates (council tax that you pay to a local authority when you run a business). Yet corporate tax avoidance remains a legal option for big business.
Hammond said the focus on the self-employed was because research showed that self-employed working was on the rise because of the seeming beneficial tax situation. Mate (not my actual mate), I’d say it’s because so many of us can’t find flexible jobs in corporations that it’s the best option available to us.
Blogger and professional upstart Mother Pukka is making a mark in campaigning for flexible work practices with her Flex Appeal, but it does seem that there’s very little support for flexible work and self-employment that makes financial sense from on high, and certainly not from May’s government.
** Update on 15 March 2017. The government have ditched this insane proposal. Flaming galahs.